Universal Television

Mapping the TV cosmos

by Gordon Campbell

Maps, they don’t love you like I love you.

But they do have a special charm, and we’re not talking simply about the charms of geography, important though they be. Mapping is a quality of that part of the brain that likes to assume executive power. It occurs as core activity in the calculation zone that seeks to corral the primal parts of the brain that have to do with emotion. Maps are all about the perceived payoffs from risk and ambiguity.

That’s a the long way round of saying that the Strange Maps site is extremely cool. It has all sorts of maps geographical, historical, allegorical and cultural – including this one, which charts which television images would be hitting what part of the known universe right now, given that they are traveling at the speed of light. It seems that the Albebaran star system – some 65 light years away – currently mark the outer reaches of television space.

And also : The Twilight Zone and Bonanza (both 1959), are just about now hitting the (putative) extraterrestrial biological entities of the Mu Arae area (appr. 50 light yeary). The Cosby Show, Miami Vice and Night Court (all 1984) should be all the rage on Fomalhaut (25 light years ). Meanwhile, the sentient, Tv-watching creatures near Alpha Centauri (4.4 light years), our closest extra-solar star, are just recovering from the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s halftime show during the 2004 Superbowl.

Even more poignantly, there are parts of the universe that could be saying right now – gee, this Freaks and Geeks show is really good, can’t wait for the second season. That would be planets circling the star Ross 154 in Sagittarius – but they’ll find out soon enough. The Starmaps television map first appeared on the Abstruse Goose site, whose back pages also include this terrific inversion of the process, as it retreats into endless grids of inner space.